On The Hook launches review of the Marine Stewardship Council; calls on all to participate
The On The Hook campaign has launched a review of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The group states that the MSC has a vital role to play in global ocean governance but that it is currently failing to deliver on its vision of an ‘ocean teeming with life’.
On The Hook is now calling on all stakeholders to share their views on MSC’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as solutions for improvement, by participating in an online consultation. This consultation will be followed by a series of roundtable discussions to expand on themes raised through the consultation. Input from both exercises will be collated and summarised in an objective report by Dr Andrew F Johnson, CEO of MarFishEco Consultants Ltd, making recommendations to MSC.
The On The Hook campaign launched in August 2017 amidst growing concerns from many conservationists, academics, industry and retailers, and other ocean advocates that the Marine Stewardship Council’s ecolabelling program was rewarding certain unsustainable practices and fisheries, failing to deliver its goal of ‘oceans teeming with life’.
The campaign initially focussed on the world’s largest tuna fishery – the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) fishery – which was headed for recertification despite incidences of shark finning and despite it being a compartmentalised fishery where damaging Fish Aggregating Devices were used alongside certified fishing practices.
However, in June 2021, On The Hook relaunched to urge widespread reform of the MSC and to call on MSC to initiate an independent ‘root-and-branch’ review covering issues relating to its Standard, operations, governance and overarching philosophy.
Professor Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at University of Exeter and On The Hook campaign member said: “MSC has taken small positive steps, such as banning certifying one part of a fishery while letting boats continue unsustainable practices, and strengthening requirements on shark finning. However, many of its proposed updates are piecemeal, weak, and lack teeth.”
Charles Clover, Executive Director of Blue Marine Foundation and On The Hook member said: “In the face of climate and biodiversity crises, it is more important than ever that MSC serves to guide consumers towards genuinely sustainable choices and consequently to incentivise improvements across the fishing industry. Some MSC-certified fisheries do represent the best in the sector, but others do not. MSC has not kept pace with best practice and has not set the bar for certification high enough. We are increasingly concerned that MSC is greenwashing high-impact industrial fisheries while remaining largely inaccessible to small-scale, developing-world fisheries.”
On The Hook has called on numerous occasions (most recently here and here) for MSC to initiate an external independent review itself looking at both its standards and its wider business model. The campaign has cited MSC’s certification of “fisheries of questionable sustainability”, its limited engagement with stakeholder input and narrow nature of its Fisheries Standard Review process as issues necessitating this additional investigation.
Therefore, On The Hook announces today the launch of its own external review of the MSC’s Standard, its philosophy and objectives, and also its overarching business model, in an effort to drive progress.
Steve Trent, founder and CEO of the Environmental Justice Foundation and On The Hook member said: “MSC can play a critical role in protecting our ocean, but only if its certification process is transparent, robust and credible. In too many recent instances, it has fallen short of that. We therefore support this participatory third-party review. It offers the most practical route to comprehensively identify key issues and formulating initial workable and widely-supported solutions. While we had hoped MSC would have initiated such a process themselves, we do not believe this can wait any longer – so we have launched our review today in an effort to drive that process.”
On The Hook’s review:
- Begins with an open, public consultation, calling for written responses to a range of questions on MSC’s business and operating model, its strengths and weaknesses, and its performance against key objectives. Evidence will be made publicly available where respondents consent, although this can be anonymised if required.
- From the responses to that consultation, key themes will be identified, and a smaller number of people invited to participate in a series of roundtable sessions, run over Zoom and facilitated by Dr Andrew F Johnson (MarFishEco Ltd). The sessions will consist of groups of stakeholders participating in a facilitated discussion on key issues identified through the consultation, as well as on possible solutions. All sessions will be recorded and made publicly available.
- The review will culminate in an objective report collating feedbackgenerated through the initial consultation and subsequent roundtable sessions. This will make both immediate and longer-term recommendations for MSC to implement.
Source Press Release